KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany: Lukas Podolski came off the bench to save Germany’s blushes with a late equaliser which secured the world champions’ 2-2 draw in Wednesday’s (Mar 25) friendly against Asian champions Australia.
The match had started on a sombre note with a minute’s silence in tribute to the 150 victims of the Germanwings plane crash in the French Alps on Tuesday and the German team wore black arm-bands.
Podolski’s 81st-minute goal prevented the Socceroos’ repeating their shock 2-1 win over Germany in Moenchengladbach in 2011 after they had caused the world champions all sorts of problems.
The 29-year-old, who switched to Inter Milan from Arsenal in January, popped up with his 48th goal for Germany on his 122nd appearance just nine minutes after coming on.
Podolski could have grabbed a winner, but failed to convert two clear chances in the final five minutes and the Socceroos were left rueing their missed chance to again claim Germany’s scalp.
“I am very proud of the players, not just because of the result,” said Australia coach Ange Postecoglou, whose side face Macedonia in a friendly on Monday. “We were always dangerous in the first half, especially going forward. It was a fantastic performance. It’s 10am in Australia, so I think a lot of people are going to work happy – if they go to work at all.”
Before kick-off, Germany coach Joachim Loew had said the world champions are a long way from the form which swept them to the World Cup last year and his team’s performance only confirmed that.
With Germany joint second in their Euro 2016 qualifying group three points behind leaders Poland, Loew will want an improved performance in Sunday’s qualifier away to Georgia.
“The game was a bit hectic from our point of view,” said Loew. “The first half went well for us, but the clarity in our game was missing in the second half. We didn’t implement what we had planned and we know that we must win on Sunday.”
Loew fielded a new 3-1-4-2 formation, using attacking midfielders Mario Goetze and Marco Reus up front, but the experiment failed to pay off. After October’s shock defeat to Poland and draw at home to Ireland in the Euro qualifiers, the Germans poor form was again painfully obvious.
The world champions were missing goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, while Bastian Schweinstieger was kept on the bench, but this was another below-par performance in their first international of the year.
Germany had taken the lead when Marco Reus slid home Sami Khedira’s cross on 17 minutes just minutes after the Borussia Dortmund winger had a goal ruled offside.
The Socceroos drew level five minutes before the break when right winger Nathan Burns’ cross was headed home by James Troisi past Germany goalkeeper Rob-Robert Zieler.
Australia took a deserved 2-1 lead when captain Mile Jedinak crashed in a free-kick on 50 minutes to silence the home crowd. It was no more than the visitors deserved having constantly tested the German defence with Mathew Leckie, who plies his trade for German second-division side Ingolstadt, a constant menace.
Having enjoyed their first World Cup victory in Kaiserslautern when they beat Japan 3-1 at the 2006 World Cup, the Socceroos were just nine minutes from another historic win until Podolski denied them. Andre Schuerrle fed the ball through to Podolski who buried his shot past Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.